Comedy (Studio 4°C)
A young girl desperately wants to save her village. She's heard of a legendary swordsman with pale skin and black hair who might be their lone hope...but he won't accept gold or silver as payment. Instead, he only takes rare books of a certain genre. For the girl's world to survive, she must find him and bring him the perfect tome before the coming hordes destroy them.
That's the long and short of Comedy, a short film by Studio 4°C of Memories, Animatrix, and Tekkon Kinkreet fame. Apparently made as part of a DVD magazine series, each short was made to stand alone, but they have been compiled into a single DVD called Sweat Punch. I tend to be a sucker for short films, so I certainly wouldn't mind finding a copy, but there's a problem with Comedy...there's just not enough of it.
Comedy, despite its title, is overwhelmingly dark and richly atmospheric. It exudes a palpable sense of doom. Fog clings to the characters in most sequences. While it's not a horror piece in any sense of the word, it has that feel. There's a reason for that which is explained in the final twist of the short -- though I wouldn't recommend reading the Wikipedia entry before watching the show, since it divulges the surprise. Your enjoyment of Comedy will depend on how much you enjoy gloomy gothic stylings done extremely well.
The animation here is solid, as one comes to expect from this studio. It's not fast-paced, but when the characters aren't in motion, the environment is. When the swordman finally springs into action, things get a bit gory, but it's artistic, not violence for its own sake. It's easy to watch just to appreciate animators at the top of their craft working on something that doesn't easily fit into normal anime categories.
I do recommend Comedy, especially since it's simple to find on YouTube and what not. But as is occasionally the case with shorts, Comedy suffers from needing a little bit more breathing room. Eliminate the credits, and the whole thing runs less than ten minutes. I would have appreciated it more had it been just slightly expanded. As it was, I enjoyed watching it, but it didn't make a lasting impact. Writing the review about six days after watching it for the first time, I needed to see it again to remind myself of the flavor of the artwork. It sets a mood, but with even a few more minutes, it could have been deep enough to remember strongly. While this might just be the product of my aging mind, I think many of my readers might find it a little shorter on substance than they might prefer.
Studio 4°C has a habit of making memorable motion pictures that push the visual realms of anime, but they sometimes struggle with making their plots as compelling as the eye candy they produce. Comedy is an example of both their strengths and weaknesses at play. The viewer who goes in with those expectations will probably enjoy the heck out of it.
Comedy (Studio 4°C) --violence -- B+